By CLAIRE MORALES TRUE
WASHINGTON D.C. – For the second time in United States, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will meet with US President Joseph Biden Jr. on May 1 (US time), this time at the White House for a longer bilateral meeting.
The White House announced in Washington D.C. the forthcoming Biden-Marcos talks, their second after the September meeting at the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York City.
A third meeting is expected this November in San Francisco when the city by the bay hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit and several meetings of ministers, business and economic leaders, among others.
In their first White House dialogue, Biden will reaffirm the US’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines and discuss with Marcos efforts to strengthen the two nations’ alliance, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing.
“The two leaders will review opportunities to deepen economic cooperation and promote inclusive prosperity, expand our nations’ special people-to-people ties, invest in the clean energy transition and the fight against climate change, and ensure respect for human rights,” she said.
“The two leaders will also discuss regional matters and coordinate on efforts to uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she added.
Following the White House announcement, Marcos said he would make clear from Biden the extent of Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to protect the Philippines under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between their two countries in case it comes under attack by land, sea or air.
The clarification, officials said, was needed as China continues its military and Coast Guard buildup in South China Sea, even encroaching on the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine exclusive economic zone with the swarming of warships, Coast Guard and militia vessels there.
Marcos will be in the US from April 30 to May 4 on an official working visit where he will also meet with members of the Filipino community, US legislators, major US corporations, and business organizations.
His bilateral talks with Biden will be followed by an expanded meeting with key Cabinet officials.
From Washington D.C., Marcos is expected to fly to London to attend the coronation of King Charles on May 6. Marcos had confirmed his participation in the event.
Marcos said in a radio interview that the US-Philippines mutual defense treaty may have to be adjusted in the wake of the rising tension in the Indo Pacific region.
“It (the treaty) needs to adjust because of the changes in the situation we are facing in the South China Sea, Taiwan, North Korea,” Marcos said. “The situation is heating up,” he added.
Earlier, the Philippines and US agreed to boost their military alliance, with the Philippines allowing US troops to base in four more sites under their Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), raising these bases to nine.
At the same time, the Philippines and US expanded their annual military drills called “Balikatan 2023” with the participation of almost 18,000 troops, the inclusion of live fire and rescue drills, including one off Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales province.
Meanwhile, Marcos and Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo met visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Manila after which they reportedly pledged to work together to resolve their maritime differences in the South China Sea.
“As to the conflicts, we agreed to establish more lines of communications so that any event that occurs in the West Philippine Sea that involves China and the Philippines can immediately be resolved,” Marcos said in a statement.